Almost exactly a month ago I went to Elcaf, the East London Comics and Arts Festival here in East London. The festival consisted of a fair, film screenings, tons of workshops, some masterclasses, an exhibit, and a bunch of talks and discussions. I decided to not enroll in any classes or workshops (I hardly have any time to do my own work at the moment), but I did get us weekend passes and tickets to a label discussion about comics publishing, featuring some Sam Arthur (Nobrow and Flying Eye Books), Annie Koyama (Koyama Press), Madalena Matoso (Planeta Tangerina), Ken Kirton (Hato Press) and Alexandra Zsigmond (Deputy Art Director at the New York Times), which was great.
Mostly though, I puttered around the fair looking at the amazing work. There were so many great artists I had a real hard time and I pretty much needed the full two days to decide which books and zines I absolutely couldn't live without. So hard and I wish I could have bought more, but in the end I just decided on a budget and bought whatever I could. Below is what I ended up with and a brief review for each.
Jilian Tamaki - Supermutant Magic Academy
An anthology of the webcomic that has been going since 2010, the book follows a group of mutant teenagers attending a Harry Potter-like high school. The comics are usually one to two pages long and are nerdy, funny, and touching at the same time. I hadn't read the webcomic very much before getting this book, but was familiar with some of the work Jilian Tamaki did in collaboration with her cousin Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer is one of my favorites). The style of this collection is very different from those books - much more loose and sketchily drawn, but the lines are very expressive and really helps you get to know each of the (often grumpy) characters.
Philippa Rice - Soppy
Another webcomic turned book is Soppy, which chronicles UK comic artist Philippa Rice's (known for My Cardboard Life) relationship with her boyfriend. cartoonist Luke Pearson. The book is a collection of sweet, quiet moments. Of efforts made to make a relationship work. And of the slow, life-changing sharing of habits where personalities blend together a little at the edges. In my mind, this book is an ode to long term relationships and I loved it. Almost every other page I recognized situations I have been in when in a long term relationship, but not in a cliché way at all. The drawing style is clean, using only red, white, and black, making me long to try a more minimalist palet in my own work (but who are we kidding). Lovely book.
Tillie Walden - The End of Summer
I was tempted to buy The End of Summer when I passed by Tillie Walden's booth and saw her do the most amazing drawing in the front of a book she'd just sold to someone else. I had never heard of Tillie Walden before, but her drawings are absolutely stunning and they just seemed to flow from her. The book tells the story of a boy Lars and his twin sister Maja who are locked into a secluded castle with their family as they try to survive a winter predicted to last three years. The story features gigantic cats, incredibly detailed backdrops, and tender moments between brother and sister. That being said, I've now read the story twice and found the story kind of confusing at times. It could be that this is intentional as the whole book has a very dreamlike quality to it, but I found it a little frustrating nonetheless. Am curious to see what Walden will do next!
Grace Helmer - Small Hours Part One
Lovely, colorful zine from Grace Helmer about the summer after graduating from college and trying to make it as a freelance artist. Love the art here.
Katriona Chapman - KatZine Issue One & Two
Stunning black and white zines done in pencil about Katriona Chapman's experiences, memories, thoughts on art, science, and commerce, and love for the natural world. I really felt like I got to know someone a bit better by reading these zines and got smarter at the same time. SO promising and can't wait to see what Chapman will do next.
AJ Poyiadgi - Teapot Therapy
Cleverly done (and folded) story by AJ Poyiadgi of an older lady's tea time habit of cleverly luring people into the house for tea. Although short, it deals with loneliness in old age, but not in a way that makes you pity the main character per se. You admire her strength, while at the same time it illustrates a very real social issue. Very well done and beautifully executed. A real treat.
Poster by Planeta Tangerina
I loved every single thing from this Portuguese publisher (especially this fun and clever book 'Livro Clap', which you have to 'clap' open and closed to make the story work) , but in the end just bought a poster because I was too overwhelmed at the point to make any more decisions on which book to get.
Now this poster hangs in our bedroom and really brightens up the room.